Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Acting Presidential

Trump in Louisiana
From the outset of the long primary campaign right to the present, commentators have criticized Donald Trump for failing to act Presidential. This criticism has been directed primarily at his words and manner. Hillary Clinton, for one does not like Trump’s “tone”. Nevertheless, in some respects Trump has acted as Presidential, or even more Presidential, than Clinton and the current President.

Just this past week he delivered a number of major speeches that, despite the scant media coverage, were serious and dealt with important topics like the economy, foreign affairs, and the plight of African Americans in the country’s major cities.

Moreover, Trump looked even more Presidential when he visited flood ravaged Louisiana this past week, especially since the actual President, Barack Obama, declined to cut short his golf vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to visit stricken Baton Rouge. Obama’s failure was really ironic since in 2008, while running for the Presidency, he severely criticized then President George Bush for merely flying over Louisiana in 2005 to view the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. He said that Bush should have been on the ground with the suffering people.*

Even though Hillary Clinton does not like Trump’s “tone”, I believe that their actions during their respective conventions were equally presidential. Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as his Vice-Presidential running mate can hardly be faulted. Pence, a former Congressman, is currently the very successful Governor of an economically resurgent Indiana. A few days later, Clinton followed suit by naming Tim Kaine, a current Senator from Virginia, one of the key battleground states in this year’s election. Trump’s choice certainly seems more practical and political than John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin back in 2008.

Coincidentally, both Pence and Kaine were born and raised as Catholics. Pence left the Church during his college years to become an Evangelical protestant. Kaine describes himself as a Pope Francis Catholic even though he openly disagrees with the Pope on abortion. It would seem that some identification with Catholicism is appropriate for a Vice- President. Joe Biden, the current Vice-President, is a liberal Catholic while Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for Vice-President four years ago is also a Catholic.

I also think that Trump’s decision to release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees a few months ago was very Presidential, even though somewhat unprecedented. I wish candidate Clinton would release a similar list of her favorites.

Clinton has, however, released her tax returns. A brief look at them indicates some embarrassing details. Clinton and her husband, ex-President Bill Clinton, showed income of over $10 Million in 2015. They paid over $3.2 Million in Federal income tax. The blow was somewhat softened by a donation of $1,042,000 to charity. Their choice of charities was significant. They gave $1,000,000 to their own family foundation. This personal family foundation is not the famed Clinton Foundation that does charitable work all over the world. Wealthy individuals set up personal family foundations when they want to control where their money goes, and for tax avoidance purposes.

The remaining $42000 of Clinton charitable contributions went to some Golf Classic run by a political associate who has made large donations to the Clinton Foundation in the past. Not one cent seemed to go to the Methodist church to which Mrs. Clinton belongs, to the Girl Scouts, or even to Planned Parenthood.

Perhaps, details like these help to explain Donald Trump’s reluctance so far to release his own tax returns. We will just have to wait and see. I suspect that Trump’s high-powered accountants have used every legitimate loophole to reduce his income tax burden.

Speaking of the release of information. I would love to see President Obama release the list of people he plans to pardon before the election, rather than wait to the last days of his administration as Bill Clinton did when he left office. Is it really acting Presidential to pardon these often nefarious individuals on the day you leave office?


* Bowing to pressure, President Obama finally visited flooded Louisiana yesterday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trump in Connecticut


Both Presidential candidates made an appearance in my home state of Connecticut this past week. The settings could not have been more different. Last Saturday Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, appeared at the Pitt Center, the sports complex of nearby Sacred Heart University, to address a crowd of 5000 standing in a packed gymnasium. There was no cost to attend but tickets were needed. The response was so great that loudspeakers had to be set up outside to handle the overflow despite the 100-degree heat.

On Monday evening Hillary Clinton, the Democrat candidate, attended a fund raising dinner at a 14-million-dollar estate in Greenwich, the wealthiest town in the State. Attendees to the dinner paid about $33000 per plate to the Clinton campaign. How is it possible for Democrats to keep up the charade that they are the party of the poor, or that they are really concerned about income inequality? There was no news in the paper today about what transpired at the Greenwich dinner but there was a story about the Trump appearance in the CT Post, my hometown newspaper.

I read the story but failed to find more than a handful of sentences about what Trump actually said in his talk. Instead, the newspaper gave most of its attention to some local small-fry Republican politicians who refused to attend the Trump rally. Is it any wonder that Trump thinks the media is biased and dishonest?

Although I did not attend the Trump rally, my wife got a report from a friend who did. She related that the large crowd packed into the gym was well-behaved and orderly throughout the presentation despite the heat that strained the effectiveness of the A/C system, and the lack of any seating. She was also impressed by the number of young people in attendance, especially young women.

For details of Trump’s presentation, I watched a YouTube video. I did not take notes but must say that I was extremely impressed. Trump was in good form. He spoke for almost an hour with ease and humor, and never resorted to a teleprompter.

He began by introducing Giacomo Brancato, a local high school student, who had used the Make-A-Wish organization to wish for a meeting with Trump. Giacomo had overcome a bout with cancer and gone on to be a star athlete for the local Fairfield high school team. Trump’s interplay with the young man and his family was charming.

Getting down to business Trump raised the issues of Hillary Clinton’s competence and experience. He noted that when she had run for the Senate in New York, she had promised to bring 200000 new jobs to economically depressed upstate New York. He claimed that she failed to keep that promise and that today that region is a disaster area.

He contrasted her performance with his own in helping to revitalize New York City. He read from an opinion piece that credited Trump with daring to invest and build in the City back in the years when it was verging on bankruptcy. Then President Gerald Ford had told the City to “Go to Hell” in response to pleas for Federal assistance.

Trump also contrasted his own expertise with that of the Obama Administration. He said that a new Veteran’s hospital under construction was over a year behind schedule and was way over budget. He compared that with a new hotel his organization was building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, right down the street from the White House. It was under budget and a year ahead of schedule.

Perhaps thinking of the Clinton fund raiser in Greenwich, Trump pointed out the contrast between his supporters and hers. He held up a placard that showed that wealthy hedge fund managers had contributed over $48 Million to the Clinton campaign. So far, Trump’s campaign had received a total of $19000 from these investment giants.

Trump did spend a good deal of time criticizing the media for its “dishonesty” during the campaign. In particular, he blamed the N.Y. Times, a paper he felt was on its last legs financially, and CNN, a cable news channel whose ratings were consistently dropping. The failure of my own local paper to provide an account of his remarks, and its continued use of anti-Trump cartoons on the editorial page supports his argument.

Trump’s most telling and perceptive comment came almost out of the blue. He mentioned that when Hillary Clinton was asked what she thought of him, she replied that she didn’t like his “tone.” Actually, this is the opinion that many people have of Trump. He replied that in the Middle East Islamic radicals are cutting off the heads of people, mainly Christians, drowning others in steel cages, and burying others alive in the desert sand. Yet, she doesn’t like my “tone”.

Some commentators criticized Trump for even coming to Connecticut, a traditional Blue state that hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate for President in decades. Even though most of them don’t want him to win, they argue that his time would be better spent in the so-called battleground states. Yet, I like to think that my home state is not as “Blue” as generally believed. In the last two campaigns for Governor, the Democrats eked our very narrow victories mainly with the support of political machines in cities like neighboring Bridgeport.

At the rally in Fairfield, Trump spent a good deal of time criticizing the Democrat governor of Connecticut for leading the State down the path of economic decline. In particular, he cited the Governor’s failure to keep General Electric from moving its corporate headquarters from Fairfield into neighboring Massachusetts. No matter what one thinks of Trump’s tone, why should anyone in Fairfield or Connecticut vote for the Democrat candidate?


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is Trump Crazy?

Recently I received a solicitation in the mail from the “Trump Make America Great Committee.” As usual, in solicitations of this kind, I was asked to give my opinion on which of the following issues Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates should address in the Presidential campaign. Here are the issues.

Tax reform
Fighting radical Islamic terrorism
Re-negotiating trade deals to put America first
Firing unresponsive federal bureaucrats to make government accountable again
Building the border wall and fighting illegal immigration
Appointing conservative judges to the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court
Repealing Obamacare and replacing it with market-based reforms
Standing up for law enforcement and the rule of law
Eliminating unneeded federal regulation so businesses can grow and create jobs
Strengthening our military and ensuring veterans are treated like the heroes they are

These are obviously the issues that helped Mr. Trump defeat a highly qualified field of candidates in the Republican primaries, and I must say that I think most of them are important and worthy of serious discussion. If Donald Trump continues to press these issues, he will have a good chance of victory in November.

However, it now seems obvious that no such discussion of issues will take place in the current campaign. Just this week Trump gave a major speech in Detroit outlining his economic proposals. It was hardly reported in the media which instead chose to express outrage over a remark by Trump that was supposed to invite gun rights advocates to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

Not a day goes by when Internet headlines, TV political programs, or newspaper cartoons fail to depict Trump as a dangerous, insane demagogue. Even the sports pages are getting into the act. Here is a headline about the NY Yankees treatment of Alex Rodriguez with a gratuitous slap at the Republican candidate.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told perhaps the biggest lie of the year Wednesday, which is quite a feat considering the parade of falsehoods that emanate from Donald Trump’s mouth on a daily basis.
What was the writer thinking about? How can the writer not fail to notice the fact that Hillary Clinton is far in the lead for the liar of the year title?

Even today, Daniel Henninger, the renowned editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal, finally came around and admitted that a vote for Hillary Clinton is not an option in November. Another op-ed in today’s WSJ also argued that Trump’s criticism of foreign currency manipulation is worthy of real consideration. Just the other day Pat Buchanan, one of the most astute and independent commentators in America, argued that Trump’s call for a re-evaluation of NATO and Russia was worthy of serious consideration.

It is always easy to blame the messenger who brings bad news but that does not make the news any better. The United States has been at war for over fifteen years, it is almost 20 Trillion dollars in debt with no relief in sight, and faces serious problems both at home and abroad. If the Democrats think they can fix these problems, why didn’t they do so in the past eight years under President Obama? They will blame Republicans but they had a free hand during Obama’s first term. What went wrong? They can’t blame Trump for the failures of the Obama administration.